I collected my small portion of rice and went to sit with the others, who at that moment were eating in sombre silence whilst seated at long trestle tables in the open-air canteen. The scenery was not at all unpleasant and I wondered why everybody seemed so glum and grey. Our dining area was in the middle of quite a stunning panorama – long, gently rolling fields that stretched for miles to the East and West, low hills to the North and a lightly forested region some distance South. It was a clear sunny day that felt like Spring.
I ate quietly for some moments, thinking nothing in particular, when I heard a faint but unmistakable humming sound emanating from beyond the Northern hills. As the noise grew loud enough for them to perceive, my dining companions leapt from their seats and began running wildly in all directions – evidently looking for places to hide – for many of them took refuge under the tables, in the absence of any other form of shelter. This was desperate too and I wondered what on Earth was going on. Looking up into the sky, things suddenly became clearer – approaching like a poisonous fly was what looked to be a World War II aircraft. Everyone seemed to think it was about to bomb us.
I looked around in hopeless dismay, wondering what we were supposed to do – we were so exposed we wouldn’t stand a chance if the pilot picked us out for destruction. I looked up again, willing him to go away, and by some extraordinary stroke of luck, the plane passed right over our heads in the direction of the forest and disappeared from both view and audible location. For the first time I heard voices of hopeful animation from the others, as they came out from their hiding places in evident relief.
But then – to our helpless terror – we heard the noise once again, this time bearing down with renewed vigour from the Southern forests that may have been our only chance of survival – had we only the time to reach them. As the plane passed by from the other side at lightening speed, I looked up just in time to see and actual bomb dropping out of the sky, literally, right above my head.
Nothing more or less than a split second later I was engulfed by a terrible and blinding white light and white heat, and the only things I could see around me were a few melting shadows of other people, flailing round as if in slow motion. The horror was totally unbearable – with dreadful livid certainty I felt the skin melt from my body and heard the shriek of my dying body as if it were already metres away from where I actually stood.
No more was possible, I staggered blindly once again, finding no plausible direction in which to turn, and just as the end drew near I heard the voice whispering once again: “Do not be afraid, you will not remember this, you will not remember this pain, this pain is only in the flesh”.
Small mercy, but still I was grateful for this pure voice of hope, slender as a feather in the wind, strong as the wings of a dove, obliterating all sensation, annihilating my last grip on mortality.